(Originally, it was just apologies to Molly. Now it’s apologies to Naf too, my words were ill-used and harmful.)
(Apologies to Molly).
Yeah, I am. I admit it.
All of those things I’ve talked about before, all of the objections that I have to the way that mainstream Heathenry is presented, all of those stand. They’ve been reinforced by the attitude I read in a recent article on how to present Heathenry at a Pagan Pride day. The author came off as paranoid and xenophobic, a deliberate outsider in a place where he didn’t identify with anyone or feel comfortable. It became clear over the course of the article that he had come to try and guide poor, lost Heathens away from the vile, lie-spewing spawn of Loki that populate Norse Paganism. Like a good shepherd, he became enraged at the dangerous wolf lurking among the sheep (in the form of someone who had bought books by a Northern Tradition author, who are all apparently *despised* by right-thinking Heathens everywhere, which reminds me, I need to get published).
I realized that I was reading the words of a man who would likely not share a horn with me, or if he did it would be under glaring brows and by setting aside deep-seated hatred. Things like this make me want to make devil horns and claim to be Rokkatru and worship thurses just to watch people have strokes; the reason that I don’t is because I still kind of feel that thurses are scary and bad (I’ve explained how I feel about that before; if hospitality demands I’ll pour to them but I’ll keep my distance in general), I’m not remotely Rokkatru (unless pouring for Loki when you pour for Odhinn counts), and devil horns would only be ironic and pointless (and bad for my arthritis).
It hurts, you know? It hurts to know that people who love the same Gods or wave the same banner seethe with hatred when they think of you. That if they couldn’t convince you to follow their one true Heathenry they’d spit on you and nidh you. It hurts to see such unreasoning fear, distrust, and paranoia.
Jesus Christ, this must be what being a progressive Christian must feel like.
Right now I can hear the chorus of Utgard.net-Trolls cackling about me and how it’s right, how I should be ashamed because Heathenry is a culture of shame, where it’s each person’s job to join in on the dogpile of reminding unpopular folks why they suck. How every misspoken word and every misunderstood concept and every disagreement of interpretation requires a good, solid flyting because that’s how the Norse did it.
Fuck your bully culture.
Maybe it makes me a bad Heathen to think that hospitality includes anyone who wanders into your space rather than just the ones who make offering (but not to Gods, never to Gods) at the High Holy Temple of Sturluson. Maybe it makes me a bad Heathen to think that someone who walks around, constantly wary and distrusting of others is a paranoid asshole. Maybe it makes me a bad Heathen to think that someone who goes to a festival full of people he seems to have a deep-rooted discomfort with and a distinct sense of alienation from shouldn’t be surprised when he doesn’t get all the people all upons converting to Proper Heathenry. I’m quite sure that it makes me a bad Heathen to have UPG at all, much less share it on the Internet where other people might be able to learn that you can talk to Gods and sometimes they talk back (blasphemy!) Maybe it makes me a bad Heathen to be all the things that I’ve done: speaking out against oppression, bigotry, and racism, seeking genuine spiritual experiences, having non-white Ancestors, praying to eeeebil furrin’ Gods… Maybe it does.
Maybe I’ll just have to be all right with that. Maybe I’m okay with being a bad Heathen.
I’m not going to stop being Heathen – that’s not where I am in life and maybe it never will be. I know who and what I am. I’m not going to stop being any of the other things that encourage Proper Heathen Rage-Walrus Mustache Shaking, because those are part of who I am too.
It’s not that I don’t understand the “Heathen mindset”. A lot of the core important parts of it (as described by many) are important to me. I just don’t agree with the ones that I don’t agree with, which also makes me a bad Heathen, because the most important rule of Heathenry is absolute, unquestioning obedience to other people when they tell you how to think, how to feel and how to live your life. No Norseman ever deviated from the strict rules of Viking culture, which were uniform in all Germanic lands and never changed with time or circumstance. That’s why Heathenry is such a successful modern religion – we have an absolute path where everyone knows their place, follows the rules (set down exclusively by men) exactly, and live in perfect harmony with each other except when they have to rise up to strike each other down because of a slight of honor.
Wait, that’s not Heathenry, that’s the Qun. Or maybe Klingons? No, Klingons don’t even believe that everyone should live by their Perfect Ancient Holy Texts Exactly. Heathens don’t even have holy texts, they have poetry recorded by people who didn’t even worship their Gods.
Now that that’s out of my system…
I can tell that the man who wrote that article had good intentions. I’ve heard about hell but not about Hel’s road being paved with those (her road is paved with everything, though). I don’t understand why people who don’t consider themselves Pagan (and there are plenty of Heathens who do) would want to come to a Pagan festival to proselytize. If I saw someone giving a lecture on Christianity and how it’s not a part of the Pagan faiths but here’s why it’s awesome and better than your faiths at a Pagan festival I’d back slowly away and talk to someone with authority about it later (or maybe just savagely blog about it and complain to friends). It seems out of place, odd, and intrusive, just as it seemed uncomfortable to the fellow in question to be there. I know that he’s trying to guide people to what he believes to be a better faith, and a better way of life, but wouldn’t it make sense to have someone who didn’t have a hate on for people who believe differently from himself be the one presenting? Honestly, can’t you understand why that would hurt or drive folks away?
Though to his credit, I suppose if he wants to draw people in, there’s no better way than publicly performing the mental gymnastics required to describe Folkishness as not being racist. It shows a remarkable amount of intellectual and moral flexibility. It’s also comforting to know that racists are incapable of being sexually attracted to people of color. I used to be worried that Antebellum landowners might have been racist, but they are proven otherwise by the trysts and (far more common) rapes of their slaves. Pfew, what was that war about again?
He’s right about maturing into a Heathen worldview. I certainly look back with some embarassment on the years after the first time I met someone like this and they scared me into running screaming from Heathenry. I should have been all upons (sorry, it’s been a thing lately, I need to get it out of my system) and being my ergi/argr, wooheaded self and helped some Heathenry grow in a different direction. I should have staked my garth, called my kin, cared for them and loved them and protected them.
I have a lot of kin among Heathens, I’ve been discovering. I have a lot of people who don’t fit the racist, close-minded, reactionary mold this fellow presents as the One True Heathenry. We have our communities, our own Inner Yards. I belong to groups for transgender and other queer Heathens online and maybe will someday in person. I belong to communities of Heathens unashamed (imagine, a Heathen not ashamed of themselves for doing what they believe is right) to discuss their UPG amongst themselves. I belong to groups of Heathens, both online and in real life, who worship Gods and actually listen when they speak back instead of talking over them.
That’s not just one Inner-Yard. That’s an encampment, a town, a neighborhood. It used to be a ghetto of Heathen Hights but it’s been expanding and gentrifying. Thank the Gods.
Or maybe he’s right about maturing into a Heathen mindset in the way he thinks he is and look back on this ten years later thinking about what a sad, deluded person I was. I’m really not going to bet on it, though.
Hail Loki! (Sorry, Lady, I had to).